BRANSON, Mo. — A program from the Skaggs Foundation and Cox Health Center, is helping those going through a health crisis, break through barriers that keep them from getting the critical care they need.
They’re called “Community Health Workers” — and you could describe them as a cross between a social worker and a dear friend.
In September of 2017, Brian Otten went to Cox ER after having trouble swallowing and eating.
“And it just got worse and worse..over time. And it got to where I couldn’t swallow any food. Very painful,” said Otten.
The diagnosis was a devastating blow. Throat cancer.
“It knocked me down when he said it’s cancer,” Otten said, “And I go boy, what now?”
Then came a second diagnosis.
“And I had another spot that popped up in the top of my neck here. And they diagnosed it as head/neck cancer ..on top of the throat cancer,” said Otten, “It was a one two punch for me.”
He had no family in town.
“You know I figured well okay..I’m going to go through this on my own,” Otten said, “I was here by myself. Had been the whole time.”
Enter Charity Dobson, a Community Health Worker for Cox Health.
“I feel like if I was in that situation, I would want someone to help me,” Dobson said.
“I could ask her about anything and she would say okay..we’ll figure that out. Let’s do this. Let’s check on this and let’s check on that. She got things done,” said Otten, “I was lost and she found me.”
Dobson is part of a three year old program, funded by the Skaggs Foundation.
More than 540 patients have qualified for the service.
“You have to have three ER visits or more..and two chronic conditions,” Dobson said.
While the job community health workers do resembles that of a social worker..it also resembles that of a close friend.
“Meet with them at their homes. We get comfortable with them,” said Dobson, “We’re able to meet with them in a public place — and we’re able to go with them to the doctor visits. Walk with them, be supportive and be there with them.”
“It was a really good thing. I was really glad to meet her — and glad to get to know her and have her on my side to help me out through all of this,” Otten said, “Cause there was a lot of times I didn’t know who to ask. I didn’t know where to turn,” said Otten.